Onam is a harvest festival in Kerala which falls during the month of ‘Chingam’ (August-September). The festival, which is celebrated with a lot of fanfare, witnesses an influx of tourists to the state during this period.
Onam is the festival of homecomings, a tribute to peace and harmony and a celebration of the true spirit of ‘God’s Own Country’. Elaborate festivities mark Onam that starts formally on the day of the ‘Atham’ asterism and goes on for 10 days. A key highlight of the celebration is the ‘Athapookalam’ or floral carpets that adorn the front yard of homes to give king ‘Mahabali’ a glorious welcome.
Another major attraction of Onam is the ‘Thripunithura Athachamayam’, a procession that marks the beginning of the Onam. Celebrated with a lot of fanfare on the day of Atham at Thripunithura in Ernakulam district, the highlights of the event are folk dance performances, dance recitals by renowned artists, musical ensembles and caparisoned elephants, to be held on August 15.
Scores of snake boats, manned by 100-125 oarsmen, participate in this event regarded as the largest team sport in the world. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race will be held in Alappuzha on August 11. Though celebrations are held across the state during Onam, the Tourism Week Celebrations held in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram by Kerala Tourism is the biggest. A range of programmes will be held from August 24-30, including food festivals and art festivals, followed by a grand procession.
A major highlight of Onam is the ‘Pulikali’, a 200-year-old folk art performed by trained artists. The dancers, painted from head to toe to resemble feisty tigers, indulge in a cat-and-mouse session with gun-wielding hunters, in rhythmic steps, to the music of ethnic drums such as ‘Thakil’ and ‘Udukku’. The ‘Pulikali’ will be held on August 28 at the Swaraj Grounds, Thrissur.